Twenty-five campers have been invited to summer camp. They are divided into five cabins. Each cabin has an adventure. Cabin 1 is participating in the All-Camp Sports and Follies. This is their chance to beat the posh campers across the lake and Kadie is determined that this will be the year they win. But is she really a returning camper? And are the rival campers even human? Cabin 2 is being stalked by a murderer...or are they? They're a disparate group but they can come together to survive anything - they hope. Cabin 3 is on a quest, united in their goal of discovering a secret treasure. But perhaps they should have thought about it a little more before taking off into the woods... Cabin 4 has 4 best friends and one lonely girl who meet their soulmates, but they're not quite what they seem... and Cabin 5 is in serious trouble right from the start.
So, the story is told jumping back and forth from cabin to cabin. People "die" (although none of the campers actually gets killed) and various chapters end on cliffhangers. Some of the campers are just focused on survival, some are working through personal problems and issues, some have realized that Something is Going On. Throughout the story, the theme of a popular series of girls' adventure stories is woven and readers also hear from a narrator, with more and more hints that everything is stage-managed. We never really discover the exact nature of the beings that are running the camp, but the implication is that they're some kind of faery since iron injures them. There is a conclusion of types; the narrator is freed, both from the creatures and her own mental prison, the girls are rescued more or less intact, and no mention is made of the fate of previous campers and personnel who didn't survive their summer adventure.
This is certainly intriguing, and I continued reading to the end of all 413 pages to see what happened, but I found myself fervently wishing that the story would get on with it at several points. It's not really a horror story, although people are attacked frequently, not really a fantasy although magic does exist, and not a love story although kisses are exchanged. One story line follows a girl who is panicked that her cabin mates will discover her soulmate is a girl, but it's not the focus of their plot thread. Several descriptions imply racial diversity, but it's rarely specified. Ultimately it's a weird and unique blend that I think would have done better if it had been about 100 pages shorter.
Verdict: A good story, but I can't think of an audience - it would have to be one that is comfortable both with first kisses, spider monsters, and narrow escapes from death as well as soul-searching. That's kind of a limited field. Also, it's over 400 pages long. I enjoyed it, but can't quite recommend it. I'd say it's an additional purchase for a specific type of middle school reader.
ISBN: 9781512415971; Published 2017 by Carolrhoda Lab; Borrowed from another library in my consortium